The government of Ontario’s first anti carbon tax ad depicts panicky Ontarians watching nickels pour out of their vents and gas pumps, while a reassuring voice tells us that “Ontario has a better way.”
This ad came after months of hyped up statements attacking the federal government’s plan to put a price on carbon pollution, including Premier Ford famously disputing evidence from economists that carbon pricing won’t make a noticeable dent in our economy.
We want to assure you that the provincial government is intentionally misleading Ontarians. But if doubt is starting to form, or if you’re having trouble convincing that cousin of yours that carbon pricing works, help is here! We have the answers to some basic questions below.
I heard that a carbon tax “will make no difference to the environment.” Is that true?
The federal government is charging a tax on goods that increase carbon pollution because this pollution causes climate change, which you may have heard is a pretty big deal.
Making polluting activities more expensive is one way to encourage a shift to cleaner alternatives which don’t threaten human civilization as we know it. For example, there is now more of a cost incentive to using public transit, cycling or walking, driving electric, or finding other ways to drive less.
And it works. Estimates show the carbon tax will reduce carbon pollution in Canada by around 50-60 million tonnes by 2022. That’s a lot. Also, carbon taxes have undeniably reduced carbon pollution in dozens of countries around the world, as well as many provinces in Canada.
EXTRA BONUS: a price on carbon means cool new low carbon technologies get a boost here in Canada, which supports our huge and thriving clean technology sector, which attracts tens of billions of dollars in investment every year.
What about all that money from the carbon tax? Where is it going?
I’m going to tell you a secret. This is a very big secret that Premier Ford has gone to great lengths to hide from Ontarians. But I think you can handle it so I’m going to tell you.
You are getting all of the money you pay in carbon tax back in advance. In fact you may have already received it if you filed your 2018 taxes, but because you are a human being who spends as little time as possible thinking about or doing anything tax-related, you didn’t notice. It’s called the Climate Action Incentive. You can read about it here, but I’m pretty sure you won’t (see above).
Ninety per cent of the revenues from the federal carbon tax are going right back to the people who pay the tax. The other 10 per cent will go to fund projects that help cut carbon pollution and fight climate change. Since we know exactly where the money is going, it’s not a slush fund.
Here’s another secret. You probably got even more money back than you’ll pay.
Wait, what? How does that add up?
Every Ontario household gets back a pre-determined amount, depending on how many people live in that household. It works out that most Ontarians – particularly low-income Ontarians, and those who have a low carbon footprint – will get back more than they pay. People who are wealthy, or go out of their way to emit carbon pollution, won’t get as much back as they pay. There is also a supplement for people in small and rural communities who may have a hard time accessing public transit or other alternatives.
Once you have the rebate, there’s still an incentive to cut costs further by insulating your home so you don’t waste as much energy, or turning down your AC a bit in summer, or turning off your engine instead of idling. This means you spend less overall on the carbon tax, and pocket more from the set amount you get to start the tax year.
WiIl a carbon tax cause nickels to pour out of your heating vents?
No. Despite all the trash talking we’ve heard about green energy, there is no chance that a carbon price – or any of the clean technology innovations it may encourage – will cause actual nickels to pour out of your heating vents (or gas pump nozzles, or supermarket vegetable displays).
Does Ontario have “a better way” to reduce carbon pollution without a price on carbon?
No. Real talk: the plan they keep mentioning, while hoping no one actually reads it, is basically a prop. Imagine you asked your child to clean their room, but instead of cleaning it they just made their bed, left everything else on the floor, and hoped for the best. That’s the level the government’s Environment Plan is working at. There is no data or evidence to back up their projected reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, no real details or commitments to action, and the actions that do exist are already far behind schedule.
On top of that, even if the Ontario government actually followed its own plan, it would actually cost Ontario households double what the federal plan would.
What is the Ontario government actually doing about climate change and environmental issues?
The only thing they are doing is damage. The policies passed by Premier Ford’s government have devastated environmental policy in Ontario, actively worked against the goals in their own Environment Plan, and increased carbon pollution in Ontario instead of reducing it.
To quote Northern Ontario Business:
“Last year, we had 1,325 forest fires in Ontario, charring 275,000 hectares of land. If you weren’t in a forest fire in Northern Ontario last year, you could certainly smell one. If you live in Bracebridge, or Mattawa, or Gatineau or Petawawa this spring your town has been under water, and not for the first time in the last few years.
Our provincial strategy to deal with this [i.e.Ontario’s Environment Plan]…..is in stark contrast to the very particular high-profile promises to stop planting trees, reduce funding for local conservation authorities, reduce funding to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, reduce funding to the Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks, stop supporting the purchase of electrical vehicles, discard the Ontario cap-and-trade program that was investing into climate change action and mitigation, and put stickers on gas pumps to discredit a carbon tax while taking the federal government to court for taking any climate action at all. Incredible.”
The provincial government has also gutted the Endangered Species Act, threatened protected areas like the Greenbelt, repealed the Toxics Reduction Act, and more.
They most certainly have not created or implemented a believable plan to solve any environmental issue – particularly climate change.
I have so many more questions, who can I turn to?
It’s important to do your homework when you hear inflammatory rhetoric about carbon pricing.
Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission has some great myth busting facts here.
And why not read the federal government’s own explanation of how the carbon tax will work in Ontario?
Will the federal carbon “hit your family’s budget like a tonne of bricks?”
No, not if the average Ontario family files their taxes, meaning they’ll get the rebate mentioned above. Premier Ford often claims that the carbon tax costs the average Ontario family $256 this year. But they very relevant fact that this same family will get $300 back is always omitted from Ontario government communications. When pressed, Premier Ford claims he doesn’t “trust” the federal government to return the revenues. News flash: they already have.
Is it true that “food is up a nickel or two”?
Um…maybe? What food are they talking about? Is it a nickel per trip to the grocery store, or per apple, or per pound of chicken? We don’t know. But you can rest assured that factors like fluctuations in weather patterns have a much greater impact on food prices than the carbon tax will. And guess what has an impact on weather patterns……yes, you guessed it! Climate change!
If only we had a policy to gradually encourage a switch to cleaner ways of moving food around like bikes and electric trucks. Wait – have you heard of a carbon tax?